"If at first you don't succeed try, try and try again."
Robert the Bruce, king of Scotland, is meant to have told his troops this shortly before walloping the English at Bannockburn in 1314. It appears to be a legend based on prior stories about Bruce's ally the infamous 'Black' Douglas, but was modified by Sir Walter Scott c 1828 and immortalised in "Tales of a Grandfather" . The earliest verifiable source of the modern phrasing seems to be a poem, Perseverance or Try Again by William Hickson which appeared as a song in his book "The Singing Master" 8 years later in 1836. Available for slightly delayed delivery on Amazon
Included 4 years later by Thomas H. Palmer in his Teacher's Manual, the stanza
'Tis a lesson you should heed, Try, try again.
If at first you don't succeed, Try, try again.'
Is classed as a proverb.
More recently as said to me by my parents
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."
Children are often reminded of the tale in the same way as a fable.
After fighting long battles with the English for control of Scotland. He was defeated in battle many times and eventually ran away to a remote island off the coast of Ireland where he lived in a cave. One day, while sitting depressed in the corner of the cave, he watched a spider trying to start to weave a web. The spider launched itself across the cave to reach the other side and start to spin the web. Time and time again the spider failed to reach the other side of the cave, almost reaching his goal. But it didn’t give up and kept trying.
When a teacher wanted a better result from a student it was not uncommon for them whilst handing an exercise book back to simply say
"If at first!"
and I or my peers would instantly know we were expected to resubmit.
More recent examples of the same celtic sentiment to keep getting up in the face of adversity are
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going"
attributed 1954 to Frank Leahy (Fighting Irish coach) in the Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail.
"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail
by Nobel Laureate, Samuel Beckett, in his short story, Worstward Ho (1983).